After checking out the impressive and thought-provoking exhibition in the museum’s main space, head upstairs for a light (and arguably pricey) meal in the fabulous new DesignCafé, which makes the entire Triennale experience a whole lot cooler. Or grab a quick but chic aperitivo on the garden terrace, where you can enjoy the view of Giorgio de Chirico’s Bagni Misteriosi, which finally has water in its fountains after 50 years.
Museo del Design
As with many of Milan’s prized destinations, this temple of design requires a schlepp that will be duly rewarded. A total of 100 iconic design pieces from Italian and international masters tell the story of the last century, with important works from such icons as Achille Castiglioni, Arne Jacobsen and Charles Eames, and spanning movements from Art Nouveau to Memphis and Bauhaus.
Museo Vigna di Leonardo
One of the most prestigious addresses in Milan, the Museo Vigna di Leonardo finally opened to the public this year. This hot spot is where the great master Da Vinci lived while painting The Last Supper and where remnants of his vineyard were recently uncovered. Famed mid-century Milanese architect Piero Portaluppi restored the property in the 19th century, and this year saw the first re-planting of the grape that Leonardo himself used.
Leave it to Mr. Armani to turn a former Nestlé granary into a starkly designed, basilica-inspired space that now houses his fashion archive of over 40 years. Apart from the exhibition area currently showcasing over 300 garments and 200 accessories, the Silos has a digital archive of drawings, sketches and material dedicated to the Maestro of Minimalism, with a bespoke cataloging system.
Good things come to those who wait, and in this case Milan finally has a vast culture compound that puts the city in the global contemporary art big leagues. Expertly exhibited across 17 striking buildings designed by Rem Koolhaas are hundreds of modern and contemporary artworks from Miuccia Prada and her husband Patrizio Bertelli’s private collection, including Damien Hirst, Louise Bourgeois and Robert Gober and pieces on loan from international art institutions. If wandering around the 19,000 square metres leaves you in need of fuel, enjoy an espresso (or cocktail) and a toasted panino at the Wes Anderson-designed canteen modeled on an old-school Milanese café.
Museo Achille Castiglioni
Design buffs will surely enjoy an insiders visit to the studio of one of Milan’s most important furniture designers of the 20th century. Frozen since his death in 2002, the museum feels cozy and cluttered, just as if a genius was being interrupted mid-work on a masterpiece. Private tours of the space which include viewing sketches, models, prototypes, and personal effects are handled by the late architect’s wife and daughter.
We’re a sucker for a castle, especially the kind that do not require a 45 minute drive out of town. Milan’s Castello Sforzesco is smack in the city center–so obvious that most city visitors overlook it. Once the home to a 15th century Duke, the castle now boasts an enormous and varied collection of booty—art, antiques and objects– from the middle ages through the Renaissance and even a healthy dash of mummies and sarcophagi from ancient Egypt.
Although every fashion editor in the world is overly-acquainted with 1920s home museum (thanks to the movie “I am Love” and Tods’ seasonal fashion presentations), we would feel remiss not to include it. Come see what a quintessential Milanese residence- designed by the quintessential Milanese architect Piero Porta Lupi– looks like in its buttercup yellow flesh. The green veranda room, with its steel sliding doors and glass walled planters, is alone worth the trip.
To ogle the best ceiling frescoes in town, swing into this magnificent 18th century palazzo that sits quietly on a narrow cobble stoned street in the city center. Painted by Tiepolo in 1740, the trompe l’oeil effect of the ceilings are, in two brief words, totally mesmerizing.
Accademia delle Belle Arti di Brera
Milan’s Fine Arts Academy has been holding classes in the same elegant building in Brera since 1776. Though special events and exhibits take place on occasion, it is also worth a mere wander through the arched colonnades and antique sculptures littering this romantic, 240 year old art campus. On your way out, check out the adjacent Botanical Gardens, which sit in the back yard of the Bulgari Hotel (where it might be necessary to stop for an aperol spritz).
This is the easiest building to tick of your to-do list. In fact, you can keep your taxi purring as you merely take in its exterior from the back seat. The beauty of Torre Velasca, built by the famed architectural group BBPR in 1958, lies completely on its surface where its intriguing design features a top-heavy square cap on a sturdy tower base.
Church of San Francesco d’Assisi al Fopponino
Everyone knows that Gio Ponti was a god of the Milan design world, but few know he actually designed three places of worship in his hometown. The church of San Francesco, conceived and built in 1964 , is our favorite. Outside the city center, its modernist lines and fantastic advent calendar-esque façade are absolutely worth the visit –for architect freaks and regular people alike.
Few people are aware of the planetarium that is tucked into Milan’s Giardini Pubblici park. Designed by Piero Porta Lupi (did we mention we love this architect?) the venue is as interesting for its lovely bones and original 1950s elegant furniture as it is for the dreamy projections that reproduce a starry night for visitors on weekends.
The Duomo’s Roof
After getting caffeinated at Bar Zucca (don’t get ripped off sitting at a table: instead, stand at the bar and take in the magnificent mosaic walls), you’ll be sufficiently gassed to take on the 300 steps straight up to the Duomo’s roof. Although its mammoth marble façade and towering gothic interiors get the most instagram action, the lesser-known roof offers fantastic views of the city in between its giant winged buttresses and spindly spires. The entire experience takes 20 minutes and feels as exhilarating as a grammar school field trip.